School districts last week approved the Franklin-Essex-Hamilton Board of Cooperative Educational Services administrative budget.
The boards of eight of the 10 school districts, including Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, approved the budget with a simple majority. The Lake Placid and Long Lake boards voted against the budget.
BOCES provides shared services for school districts in the fields of special education, trade and technical education.
The total BOCES budget is $21.9 million. Part of that is based on school districts requesting services from BOCES. This number is expected to drop because school districts do not normally purchase every service they request a price for, FEH BOCES Superintendent Stephen Shafer said.
"That ($21.9 million) would be if every district purchased every thing they asked us to price," Shafer said. "The total will eventually be less."
The $1.9 million BOCES administrative budget for 2014-15 increased by $89,657 from the current school year. Certified salaries and other salaries listed in the BOCES administrative budget totaled $575,643. Employee benefits were $397,759 and post-retirement benefits $558,000.
Shafer said the bulk of the increase came from retiree health insurance coverage.
"That really is the cost driver here," Shafer said.
Last year, the retiree health insurance coverage cost was $464,546.
John Hopkinson, the vice president of the Lake Placid school board, said he voted against the administrative budget's 4.9 percent growth.
"This on top of increments of 14 percent last year and 15 percent the year before," Hopkinson said. "I believe that these increases are unrealistic and irresponsible."
In Saranac Lake, all the school board members but Miles Van Nortwick voted in favor of the administrative budget April 29 breaking from years of precedent. The board also approved its intent to participate in BOCES.
"BOCES has really made a much more concerted effort to do things smarter and more fiscally responsible," school board member Terry Tubridy said. "I really think, over the last two years especially, it's not the status quo. It's not business as usual. Things had to change."
School board member Clyde Baker agreed.
"They have been trying to reinvent themselves," Baker said.
"They've got the message," said Debra Lennon, president of the board.
"I like Stephen (Shafer); It's a statewide problem," Van Nortwick said. "But I still have a problem with the amount of money."
In Lake Placid, six of the board members voted against the budget. The seventh, Phil Baumbach, was absent.
Hopkinson said Lake Placid's share of the BOCES administrative budget is about 8 to 9 percent without accounting for services the district chooses to use.
"In our case, 4.5 percent," Hopkinson wrote.
Shafer said the amount each school district pays is calculated from the "resident weighted average daily attendance" based on student enrollment.
"There RWADA total is percentage paid to BOCES," Shafer said. "It's separate from the amount of services a district uses."
The Saranac Lake school board canceled its meeting for Wednesday. The next board meeting will be Tuesday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Saranac Lake High School. There will also be a public hearing to discuss the school district's budget. The public votes on school district budgets statewide on May 20.
Saranac Lake's Assistant Superintendent for Business Dan Bower said budget booklets will be available Tuesday on the district's website for those people interested in seeing the budget in more depth.
The Lake Placid school district's budget hearing was held May 6 at the Wilmington Community Center.
Another budget hearing will be held in Lake Placid at a later date.